Thursday, May 30, 2013

...LM Alcott, Stephen King, and Me?

So, a while back, the writer Joe Hill was talking on Twitter about things that are foundational in your life. By that, he meant things that set your tastes. They might not be your favorites, but they set the tone of what you really like. He was talking about music, but this thinking could be applied to books, movies--anything, really, that takes a certain taste to enjoy.

Music was easy for me--my parents' love of Otis Redding made me love soul music, and worshipping anything my teenaged aunts liked gave me the Eagles and James Taylor (Particularly 'Fire and Rain'). To this day, though I love music in general and will give a listen to anything, my heart belongs to soul, blues, and the singer/songwriter genre. They were hardwired into my soul, so to speak.

Books, though... they were harder. I've read so many and started so young that I had to think hard about those. I finally decided that my foundational author was Louisa May Alcott. I loved (and still love) her stories. I was talking about all this to my mom, and she observed that she thought I'd choose Stephen King. During my many years at home she never had to read any of his books, because she heard each and every plot detail from me. I had to admit that she had a point--those late 70s early 80s books of his were lifesblood to me. I had to give that some thought.

What I discovered, though, is that Louisa and my beloved Mr. King co-exist in my heart because their writing styles aren't that different.

Stay with me here.

Both are straight-forward writers. They use plain language--nothing flowery about either one. They both have a knack for seeing people just as they are: not angels, not devils. Human. Their characters have faults aplenty, no matter how 'good' they might be, and not all of the people we root for make it to the end, or even conquer their own faults (I STILL get weepy over Dan in Jo's Boys). Maybe most importantly, they are both such moral writers, without moralizing. Their characters might have faults aplenty, as I've noted before, but damn if they don't keep on trying to do the right thing (People who've only seen Kubrick's The Shining and haven't read the book miss so much about Jack. The hotel might have conquered him at the end, but he kept fighting, and it was he who saved his family. *sniff*). They both tussle with God--Alcott eventually comes down on the side of God, but her churchgoing seems lukewarm. King's more ambivalent in tone but his stories clearly indicate a belief in God, if not in organized religion.

I look at this list and realize that writing like that is exactly what my soul craves. I can appreciate a clever book, a snarky tome, a sharp-witted, analytical treatise...but what I really want is someone who sits down and says, "Let me tell you a story..." and does it with heart and passion. And I also realize that is the kind of writing I'm passionate about producing: stories about real people, where many things in life ultimately turn out okay (because things do tend to do that), but not necessarily all things are perfect. Because life is like that, too.

What are your foundational books/writers/songs?


Friday May 31st, some of the writers of Omnific are having a Twitter Party! That's right, from 7-9pm EST (you can work out the time difference for your area, right?) many of Omnific's resident artistes will be on Twitter-hand to talk our books, other books you like, and just about anything else. There will be prizes, a scavenger hunt, and so much more! Our hashtag will be #OMNILICIOUS. I'm looking forward to 'meeting' some of you there!

Follow the links to the Authors blogs and collect the numbered letters for the secret word. As soon as you’ve worked out the word, enter the word and your twitter handle into the form. Entries are open from the day before the party and close at the end of the party when winners will be announced. 

My letter is:

Use the form below to let us know when you've identified the Scavenger Hunt word, and you can win one of four e-book packs--GOOD LUCK AND HAPPY HUNTING!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

 Here we are, just three days from the Momstravaganza! Can you believe it? When I was growing up, I never gave it much thought, to be honest. I loved my mom, she loved me--it was a 24/7, 365 days a year thing (well, maybe not so much between my thirteenth and fifteenth years. We don't talk about those days.). It was a damned good thing my dad always remembered and came through with the goods.

As I got older and became a mom myself, I realized how damned hard being a mother can be, and I appreciate my mom so much more today than I ever did as a kid. She wasn't much more than eighteen, a kid herself, when she had the most stubborn, pig-headed, irascible child in the world (moi). According to family legend, I gave up naps by one year, walked (ran) when I was nine months old, talked at about the same time, and was reading by two years. The questions falling out of my mouth never ceased. THE WOMAN GOT NO REST. The fact that I lived to be writing this is a testament to her sainthood.

So, without further ado, here is a list of the five best lessons I learned from my mom:

I was a shy kid at school, believe it or not. I didn't talk much, but I read all the time. I wrote stories, and thought thoughts, and found myself delightfully entertaining. Of course, when I got home I had all this STUFF that had been going around in my head to talk about, and good old mom was there to listen. I'm sure she had no idea what I was talking about half the time, and found most of the rest boring as hell, but she never let me know that. I got her bright smile and questions in all the right places, and when I finally ran down I got a hug. I knew I was loved. That was priceless. I try to pay it forward everywhere in my life, from my kids to the old lady in the grocery store that wants to reminisce about people I've never heard of. Everyone deserves to feel as important as I did at the end of each school day.

This goes along with the last one, I guess, but it's separate in my mind. If Mom always listened to me, she wasn't shy about letting me know when it was my brothers' turn to talk, and she didn't put up with 'topping'. You know, that thing when you listen to two minutes of what someone else has to say, and then jump in with our own story of how much (bigger, badder, better, worse) your (thing) was. Uh-uh. That didn't fly at all. A reminder that we're all pieces of the puzzle, separate but equally important, was a great lesson for me, both in life and as a writer. 

Picture the scene: a family walks along a beautiful Japanese trail, taking a last look at ruins of a wall that was in existence for centuries before the US was conceived. Picture the teenage son, sauntering coolly along, pretending that he doesn't belong to this motley crew. Picture the mother, irritated that he's ignoring her and missing out on this gorgeous sight. Now picture her crawling along behind him, chattering brightly at his back until he starts to laugh. Then she stands up, brushes off her hands & knees, and continues cheerfully on. Yup. My mom. I'll never forget how much we laughed, both because my brother (Ole StoneFace) finally broke out of his shell and because mom looked so funny! It taught me that: 1) you don't have to beat people over the head to make your point; 2) embarrassment isn't fatal.

In the last week, I've had an involved discussion of Legos with a five year old, commiserated with a woman of indeterminate (but white-haired) years over the state of her car, had a street person tell me exactly where the Obama Administration has gone wrong, and talked old vs. new Spiderman with a stringy guy. All of these people were complete strangers. This is not unusual. If there is a drunk, a little kid, a lonely old person, or a crazy with a story anywhere in the vicinity, they will find me and tell me their story. I get this from my mom. She's always been the one that can and will talk to anyone about anything. It takes FOREVER to get through a store with her...but it's always a happy journey! It's apparently genetic: my older son was recently moaning that if there is a weirdo in any of his classes, they talk to him. His summation: "Grandma is the Yoda of weirdo attracting, you're Obi-wan, and I'm your damned Padawan learner!" (Yes, the geekdom is hereditary, too)

If I pass nothing on to my kids, this is the best I have to offer, and I got it from my mom. She used to tell us (often), "Be polite. You don't have to like everyone in the world, and they don't have to like you, but you can always be polite." After hearing this a jillion times and seeing it in action all of my life, I find it nearly impossible to be rude without extreme provocation. I learned to ignore a lot of the little irritations of life, let pass the petty mistakes people make, and to live and let live. Mom taught me that being polite and being kind makes life easier and more pleasant for everyone. And isn't that something worth passing on?